WORS #6 “Alterra Coffee Bean Classic” pre-ride report

82 degrees at 6am this morning – great morning to head over to Franklin and check out the Crystal Ridge trails.

Once again this year the Alterra team will host the Crystal Ridge WORS race and their crew along with the Metro Mountain Bikers have made the once “fun to ride but crappy to race” course into a legit WORS course.  It’s still one of the most technical races in the series, but over the past 2 years they’ve opened a lot more passing lanes and made the course a lot more “race ready” – especially for those of us with only one gear.  The biggest change this year is the elimination of the snaky switchback climb.  It has been replaced with a “straight up the backside” climb that is longer than you think.  The Team & MMB crew will be doing some more trail grooming tomorrow too if anyone’s available to help out.

Todd Somers from the Alterra team put together this summary of the 2011 course layout:

“No prolog lap. Up the hill and around the cap. There is a drag strip on top that will suck but should help to separate the milk from the cream. Then in the woods over to Alpha then back to CR up the west side of the hill and around to O’Malley’s on the south end (open spots again) out and back to the hill. Comp will go up the hill a bit but not to the top. Pave plunge is gone, then let it rip down the hill in the small intestine and back up the starting hill.”

Unfortunately, every year I forget how much fun this course is, and how close to home it is too.  I spent the second lap this morning picking bugs out of my teeth because I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  There are still about 7 million trees that seem to jump out at you around every corner, and the rain and (finally) sun have kicked the brush growth into turbo mode.  It’s hard to see what’s around every corner, and trust me there are more corners than you can count.  This morning I saw enough wildlife to load an ark, in fact I stopped and had a staring contest with a doe who was only about 10 feet away from me.

Do yourself a favor and get over to Crystal Ridge and ride it – or better yet, race it.  You are guaranteed to have a blast!

I can crush you, but I won’t… yet.

I was born a loser – small, weak, not into sports… in fact I was the last kid on the block to learn to ride a bike.  My parents moved us to a different state when I was 7 and then divorced when I was 10.  Since I didn’t play sports and was relatively shy, moving to new towns didn’t do much to boost my self-confidence.

I tried to be competitive, even raced BMX when I was 10 and 11.  I won a few trophies when the class was so small that everyone got one, or the time I had to beat a 10-year-old girl to get into the main moto.  I just never knew how to win; I never had the drive to be better.  Don’t get me wrong, I WANTED to be better.  I idolized my little brother who was consumed with the desire to win.  He lettered in 3 sports in high school – was all-conference on offense and defense in football and was romanced by 2 universities to play football.  But I didn’t feel that same drive, I was OK with just participating and then making up excuses for why I wasn’t the best.  I blamed everything and everyone and when things got too tough, I quit.

As a 20-year-old, I raced a few mountain bike races.  It was a relatively new sport [people were wearing acid-washed jeans and Billy Ocean had one of the top-selling records (yes I said records)].  My goal in these races was to “not finish last”.  That meant that my goal was second to last, a goal I always managed to hit.  That’s like setting a goal of breathing at least once every hour.  I had fun, but my “…bike was never good enough…” for me to do better or this reason or that reason.

I carried that same attitude into every aspect of my adult life.  It was OK for people to walk all over me and it was OK if I wasn’t the best, as long as I tried (a little).  But at some point, that changed.  I started to find focus – in my work, in my life and in things that I enjoyed doing.  I found a competitive drive deep inside me that brought out a will to win.

At one point, I got away from cycling and worked at a health club for a couple of years.  My high school graduation weight of 148 eventually went to 205 as I found something tangible and rewarding in working out.  I eventually returned to riding, and my weight settled in at 180, but I was a different person.  I put together a mountain bike that was too small from spare, used and borrowed parts, and I started riding like I never had before.  I felt an inner drive every time I clipped in to go harder.  I found a serious job that would support my family and I became very good at it.  I started a company and grew it into a successful business.  But over time I had stopped riding again.  I had lost that harmony that I was just starting to tap into in my 20’s.  So, on a beautiful fall day 5 years ago, I dusted off my old mountain bike and took a ride.  I was rusty and slow, but I felt the passion come through stronger than ever.  From that point forward, I made time for myself every day and I let that inner drive fuel me instead of defeating me.  3 years ago, I signed up for a few WORS races.  I didn’t do very well, but each time I raced I learned and I worked on getting better.  I had no excuses, and that felt great.  I owned the losses 100% and that felt even better.

Fast forward to today – I love to toe the line at races.  My heart is beating like a lawnmower and I can’t sit still until the race gets underway.  I am racing to win and I’m disappointed if I don’t.  I expect to win now, yet I’ve never stepped onto the top step of any podium.  I have a lot of 2nd and 3rd place medals, which now represent “1st & 2nd loser” to me.  I still wrestle with the demons of mediocrity though, like Gaylord Focker with his wall of 8th place trophies.  I still want that recognition of a job done “well-enough”, but I know I won’t stop until I step on top of the podium.  I might be 80 when I do it, but I know deep down inside that it’s mine for the taking now.